Sometimes politics works. On Monday 27th November the only Green Lord, the only Green Party representative in the whole of the palace of Westminster, described a positive and inspiring vision of how the green economy might be. Wrapped up as a challenge to the feeble gesture towards climate change in the Queen's Speech it is really a deep green appeal for a holistic and sustainable economy. It is reproduced here in full:
SPEECH OF LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY, GREEN PARTY PEER IN THE DEBATE ON THE QUEEN’S SPEECH ON THE AFTERNOON OF MONDAY NOV 27 2006
My Lords, there are many things in the gracious speech that the sole Green Party representative in Parliament might have chosen to speak on and for a time I was tempted to speak on international affairs, to protest against our illegal involvement in two wars and to point out that no one had ever dabbled in the affairs of Afghanistan or Mesopotamia with profit to any of the parties concerned from the First Afghan War, chronicled by my great-great-grandfather Henry Havelock, through the advocacy of the use of mustard gas and the bombing of unarmed civilians by Winston Churchill to the present unhappy events.
Not all that long ago the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association sent me to Tonga and I learned there that there is a lot to be said for a policy of no entanglements and of dubbing ones islands The Friendly Islands and behaving accordingly
But even two illegal wars are not the most important matters on our plate.
Much the most important and dangerous problem is Climate Change and we very much welcome the forthright challenge of the Stern Report. In which the risks of making only small cuts to our CO2 production are laid out in full. Including the risk of an increasing likelihood of "abrupt and major irreversible changes".
The major changes include the melting of the Greenland icecap and the resultant 6m rise in sea levels that this implies.
The upshot of this is that if London, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai are to be saved and the cost and suffering of the refugees to be avoided going for CO2 concentrations of 550ppm as the Government is doing is really not enough.
In order for the UK to do our share to avoid such drastic consequences, annual reductions of 9% are needed now, order to cut CO2 production to 90% of 1990 levels by 2030. That is the Green Party's message. The modest 3% cuts envisaged by the recent Climate Change Bill are simply not sufficient. Annual reductions in CO2 production of 9% may sound ambitious, but in reality are not impossible, requiring only political will in the place of political rhetoric.
The first necessary economic steps include putting an effective value on carbon emissions, through a capped tradable quota system. They include ending airport expansion, and embarking on serious investment in energy efficiency and renewables. They include Market mechanisms such as the feed-in tariff scheme deployed by Germany, Japan and Spain, which has resulted in Germany installing 56% of the world's solar panels.
By paying households to generate clean, green electricity, such feed-in tariff schemes can be used to shift our electricity production by making investment in renewables cost effective for the individual. And let no one sneer at the efforts being made by Mr. Cameron. These are early days in exploring the way forward and Mr. Cameron is at least trying.
We also need to take responsibility for all the carbon production in the whole of our economy. Having watched the demise of much of British manufacturing and the coal industry, it should be no shock to noble Lords that carbon emissions in Britain briefly dipped in the early 1990s.
But in truth, those now rising levels of CO2 emissions are an under estimate of what our economic activity produces. For we are in effect now exporting the production of CO2 abroad, to China and other countries. When we consume products manufactured abroad, they use carbon in production and transit. The production is counted in the carbon figures where it is produced, and the transportation, under Kyoto, is not considered at all. If we took these factors into account, our society would be seen to produce around 20% more carbon emissions.
The most obvious and significant conclusion is that, if we were to meet our needs for food, clothing and household goods from local, sustainable production we could drastically reduce the level of carbon dioxide emissions. The Green Party advocates a system of strengthened local economies, where we have a role as producers as well as consumers, thus not only reducing our impact on climate change but also reinforcing our identities and self-esteem within our local communities. Trade should return to its right role as being the exchange of goods we cannot produce within our own economies.
This seems far from the thrust of current economic thinking on any of the front benches at present, which ought to be a source of deep concern to us all. Instead, we continue to hear from them about competitiveness in a globalised economy which provides ever cheap goods manufactured abroad for consumption in countries such as ours. Such a view is fundamentally incompatible with serious and sufficient action on climate change.
Without addressing these fundamental measures, both the government and opposition continue to be insufficiently ambitious, and wrongly focused, for the sake of supposed 'economic stability', thereby risking catastrophic climate events. The Green Party on the other hand believes we must begin to localise our economies into more efficient and sustainable units, to guarantee the future of our planet and economy.
Such a vision offers greater community and personal satisfaction: a world where conviviality replaces consumption, where local identity replaces global trade, and where community spirit replaces brand loyalty.